Friday, February 16, 2024

Bad Choices Abound - Vox Popoli

 Big Serge invokes a chess analogy to explain the very difficult choices being faced by Israel vis-a-vis the Arabs in Palestine and by the USA in the Middle East and in Ukraine.

The basic geostrategic problem facing the United States (and its ectopic paramour, Israel) is that the ability to conduct asymmetrically inexpensive countermeasures has become exhausted. The US can no longer prop up Ukraine with surplus shells and MRAPs, nor can it deter the Iranian axis with reprimands and air strikes. Israel can no longer maintain the image of its impenetrable preclusive defenses, upon which its peculiar identity depends.

That leaves the difficult choice between strategic retreat and strategic commitment. Half measures no longer suffice, but is there will for a full measure? For Israel, which has no strategic depth and a unique world-historic self conception, it was inevitable that commitment would be chosen over strategic withdrawal (which in their case is much more metaphysical than purely strategic, and amounts to the deconstruction of the Israeli self conception). Thus, the immensely violent Israeli operation in Gaza – an operation that could never have gone any other way, given the density of the population and its eschatological meaning.

America, however, has a great degree of strategic depth – the same strategic depth which allowed it to withdraw from Vietnam or Afghanistan with few meaningful ill effects on the American homeland. The possibility most certainly remains for a prosperous and secure America long after withdrawing from Syria and Ukraine. Indeed, the famously chaotic scenes of frantic evacuation from Saigon and Kabul represent remarkably clearsighted moments in American foreign policy, where realism prevailed and losing chess pieces were left to their fates. This is cynical, of course, but that is the way of the world.

This is a standard motif of world history. The most critical moments in geopolitics are generally those where a country faces the choice between strategic retreat or full commitment. In 1940, Britain faced the choice between accepting Germany hegemony on the continent or committing to a long war which would cost them their empire and lead to their final eclipse by the United States. Neither is a good choice, but they chose the latter. In 1914, Russia had to choose between abandoning its Serbian ally or fighting a war with the Germanic powers. Neither seemed good, and they chose the latter. Strategic retreat is hard, but strategic defeat is worse. Sometimes, there are no good choices.

The Age of Zugzwang, Big Serge Thought, 14 February 2024

It’s an excellent historical analysis and the whole piece merits careful reading. However, the one element that is being left out of the equation is The Empire That Never Ended. Which is to say, in modern parlance, Clown World. It’s simply not possible to analyze the decisions of the US government to employ military force in the American national interest when the individuals making those decisions clearly do not prioritize the interests of Americans or even the US citizenry.

The obvious and growing divergence between the Kiev regime and the surviving Ukrainian people being the relevant case in point here.